Reproductive health options among HIV-infected persons in the low-income Niger Delta of Nigeria
Osaro Erhabor1, Chris I Akani2, Cosmos E Eyindah2
1Department of Haematology and Immunology, College of Health Sciences, University of Port Harcourt, 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Background: With the advent and widespread use of highly active antiretroviral therapy for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), persons living with HIV/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are living good quality, longer, and healthier lives. Many couples affected by HIV, both serodiscordant and seroconcordant, are beginning to consider options for safer reproduction. The aim of this study was to assess the reproductive health concerns among persons living with HIV/AIDS in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.
Methods and results: The subjects were aged 18–58 (mean 41.25 ± 11.50) years, with 88 males (45.1%) and 107 females (54.9). Of the 195 subjects studied, 111 (56.9%) indicated a desire to have children. The main reasons for wanting to procreate included ensuring lineage continuity and posterity (52.3%), securing relationships (27.0%), and pressure from relatives to reproduce (20.7%). Single subjects were more inclined to have children (76.3%) compared with married (51.5%), widowed (18.2%), and separated/divorced subjects (11.1%, P = 0.03). Of the 111 subjects who indicated their desire to have children, women were more inclined to have children (64.5%) than men (47.7%). The major concern among the 84 (43.1%) subjects not desiring more children were the fear of infecting a serodiscordant partner and baby (57.1%), fear of dying and leaving behind orphans (28.6%), and fear that they may become too ill and unable to support the child financially (14.3%). Persons with no formal education were more likely to have children irrespective of their positive HIV status (66.7%) than persons educated to tertiary education level (37.0%, P = 0.01). Of 111 subjects who desired to have children, only 58% had attended reproductive health counseling with HIV counselors. Reasons for not seeking advice were anticipated negative reactions and discrimination from counselors. A significant number of subjects were only aware of some of the reproductive health options available to reduce the risk of infecting their partners and/or baby, such as artificial vaginal insemination, intrauterine insemination, cesarean section, avoidance of breast feeding, and offering prenatal pre-exposure prophylaxis to the fetus. They were unaware of other options, such as sperm washing, in vitro fertilization, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Of the 43.1% not anticipating more children, 36.9% were anticipating adoption.
Conclusion: Our study has shown that a significant number of HIV-infected persons in the Niger Delta of Nigeria desire to have children irrespective of their positive serostatus. There is the need to support the sexual and reproductive rights of HIV-infected individuals. Additional training needs to be offered to HIV counselors on evidence-based best and affordable practices regarding reproductive health issues among persons living with HIV. Policies that support availability and accessibility to relevant reproductive and sexual health services, including contraception and procreation, need to be developed. Public enlightenment programs on HIV are needed to reduce the stigmatization that HIV-infected persons face from family members and their communities.
Keywords: reproductive health, human immunodeficiency virus, low income, Niger Delta, Nigeria
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